Monrovia, Liberia - UNMIL today launched its report on human rights developments monitored by the personnel of the Human Rights and Protection Section stationed across Liberia between November 2006 and January 2007. This edition of UNMIL's regular update on human rights protection paid particular attention to human rights conditions in prisons and detention facilities. UNMIL found that conditions in the detention facilities were generally well below the minimum standards recognised internationally.
The Liberian prison system faces numerous challenges, including the lack of adequate facilities, logistics and trained personnel, which can only be met with the steady investment of human and financial resources over time. However, Liberia has undertaken to uphold the human rights of all individuals, including those deprived of their liberty and thus must continue to work to achieve the minimum detention conditions as soon as possible.
Prisoner access to basic sanitation and health care is of special concern. There are no separate facilities for the detention of juveniles, who are entitled to specific protections due to their age. Although the authorities have tried to hold juveniles in separate cells, this was not always possible due to the lack of space.
The biggest single challenge to detention conditions at present is the overcrowding of facilities. In November, the nation's largest prison, Monrovia Central Prison, held 562 inmates, more than three times its intended operational capacity. The overwhelming majority of inmates were on remand awaiting trial.
Overall the criminal justice system is hard pressed to cope with the backlog of cases. The effective implementation of the law against rape continued to face many hurdles, which are detailed in the report.
Recommendations are provided in the report with the intention of assisting the Government and Liberian civil society in their efforts to promote, protect and respect the human rights of all individuals.
UNMIL continues to work with the Government and civil society organisations to improve the human rights situation in Liberia including in prisons. Action to address the overcrowding of prisons is underway with assistance from UNMIL and the United States government, which are providing support to extend the facilities at Monrovia Central Prison and to open the Palace of Corrections in Zwedru as well to improve conditions at other prisons around the country. In addition UNMIL is providing assistance to the Ministry of Justice to conduct a review of the cases of all pre-trial detainees held in Liberia's prisons. This initiative is aimed at relieving both the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system and the overcrowding problem.
For further information, please contact the Human Rights and Protection Section, UNMIL.